a rant or rumination or two
I have been tested for COVID six times now. I imagine that number will climb to a total of nine for 2020. I’ve flown to Mexico, having tested negative for the sixth time four days ago. I’ll get tested upon return. And if I go home to New York for Christmas, I suspect I’ll test before and after that trip, too. I’m getting so tired of tests that it makes me want to forfeit returning home for the holidays, which is just absurd. Of course going home is worth a couple more nasal swabs. But part of me just wants to forgo the stress of the airports and contact with so many others; to just hole myself up in one place, spending time with only a small cohort of people, and not too often. It certainly unburdens me of all the necessary COVID mitigation. But that’s just 2020 for you.
I woke up yesterday with the creeping sensation of fall drifting through the window. As much as I like fall weather, it always fills me with a feeling of dread. I get the sense that things are changing, as they did every year of school, and that it’ll be cold and I’ll be missing home in an instant. This morning, I was also bracing myself for the arrival of pest control, and with them, the hassle of emptying drawers and cabinets, rearranging, and ultimately undoing all of my meticulous organization.
Five months and five days. I had counted. That was how long I went without rock climbing—the longest stint in my life. Man, it was good to be back.
I had a realization about a month ago that I was simply existing. It wasn’t inherently a bad thing, but it was perplexing. COVID had stripped me of so many passions: concert-going, brewery visits with friends, traveling, and most of all, climbing. And yet, I was numb. Shouldn’t I be more upset, given that these activities are what form my entire identity? Shouldn’t I lament their loss? Maybe I did, back when this began in March. But at that point, I really had just gotten used to feeling uninspired by my daily routine. And that frightened me.
Everyone knows that anything in miniature form is inherently better than its normal-size counterpart. Those mini glass Coca-Cola bottles. Mini cupcakes. Mini whisks. Try to argue against me, I dare you. I had this thought (as I often do) when I recently passed by one of those mailboxes that look like a miniature house. Which reminded me of a house in Colorado Springs that has a tree house that is a miniature version of itself. People with these sorts of constructions are some of the few that I’d actually like to meet.
I haven’t posted on here in a while. It didn’t feel like it was my place.
Like the vast majority of America, I was shocked, disgusted, dismayed [insert more adjectives] by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. And as I watched my social media feeds flood with infographics, calls to action, resources to listen to, read, and watch, and all of those black squares, I felt dizzy and paralyzed. And rightfully so; as a white person, I should be humbled and made uncomfortable by my complicity in innumerable structures that systemically and systematically harm people of color. But those feelings couldn’t tell me what to do.
Curious-er and curious-er, as Alice would say.
I’ve been furloughed indefinitely. Co-workers, friends, and family are all reaching out with sympathy, but I’m honestly not too upset. My situation is not abnormal, and frankly, it’s not very tragic in the grand scheme of things. I do wonder how I’ll bide my time, hoping to return to work, and how different the organization will look when and if I do. What’s tragic to me — or perhaps disconcerting — is how much everything seems to be changing around me.
For the first time in a long time – perhaps ever – I feel it’s relatively easy to live in the present. Planning during a pandemic is nearly impossible. As much as I’d like to hold out hope that certain events will take place – concerts, sporting events, returning to work from furlough, alumni reunions, travel – I think it’d be foolishly optimistic to fantasize about them. But that’s OK. The reality is, so long as I’m happy and healthy, I don’t need anything. I’m pretty decently content with spending my days running trails, calling friends, reading books, and listening to music. I’m a bit bored at times, but really. During times like these, being bored is a luxury.
I’ve had a lot of thoughts stewing in my head lately, starting with the word “stewing” itself. When and why did I start using stewing as a substitute for something approximating “ruminating”? Stewing also has a negative connotation (or seems to), when in fact, I love stew. I love simmering a big pot of something and eating leftovers for an entire week. I suppose I think stewing as negative because I use it to describe problems I have — stressors, anxieties — that are simmering on a back burner. I know they’re there, that they’re slow cooking, but I refuse to check on them.
Quarantine is weird. March was an eternity, April sped by. What was once preposterous — going out to only essential businesses, conducting work and school online, “social distancing” — honestly feels normal now. We humans are more adaptable than we think. We’re just so goddamn resistant to change initially.
I went home to New York in the middle of March. That was the beginning of the panic, when it just seemed appropriate to get with your family and hunker down to weather this storm. The week prior, I was in a funk. My beloved dog, Millie, had just passed away. I had signed up for a marathon in June, hoping that having a goal to work towards would give me some purpose. My work trip to Tokyo and subsequent visit to friends and family in Portland had been cancelled. My next day off was months away. And I had no idea when I’d see my siblings and parents next. “Maybe Thanksgiving?” I wondered.
It took some time to gather enough “snippets” worthy of a post. Quarantine is like that sometimes, I suppose.
One day is like, “Man, all the weeks have blended together. What day is it — Monday or Saturday? Oh, it’s Thursday. And what year is it again?”
And then other days are like: “You’ll never guess what happened today: I saw a dog!”
Anyway, without further ado…
Last week started out particularly strong when I got the brilliant idea of making myself a “Blink 180 Tuesday” playlist for my Tuesday run. Blink 180 Tuesday is arguably my favorite party theme. It’s not that I was necessarily a huge Blink fan back in the day, but 14-year-old me (and current me, honestly) certainly raged to plenty of Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Panic! At the Disco, All-American Rejects, All Time Low, etc. Listening to that music not only is sentimental, it actually really resonates during this angsty time we’re in. After all, it’s not that strange for quarantine to leave you trapped in your room singing, “I’m just a kid and life is a nightmare,” and, “I’m in too deep and I’m trying to keep up above in my head instead of going under” … you know?
Just when I think I’ve almost — almost — gotten used to this quarantine thing, I wake up in a panic. Today was particularly brutal because not only did I wake up to terrible allergy congestion, but also had an incredible dream interrupted. I dreamed that I was marrying Nick Jonas. And it wasn’t a superficial marriage; I was marrying him with the knowledge (you know, that weird background information that you just somehow have in dreams) that our relationship had been a full romance: dating many months, years even, Nick Jonas eventually proposing to me in a sweeping chivalrous gesture. I woke up dismayed that I was not marrying Nick Jonas, but instead was struggling with a clogged nosed, crusty eyes, and a whole new day of NOTHING ahead of me.
A shocking number of tidbits collected in the past few days! Maybe we WILL survive this quarantine!
This last Friday, my department had a Zoom rock-paper-scissors battle against another department to combat “March Sadness.” It worked.
A bracket of department members was made in advance, and the heads of the two departments moderated. For each match, everyone muted their video screens except for the two playing and the two moderators. At the count of three, you had to hold up a paper with the word rock, paper, or scissors. Some got creative — writing all the words in Spanish, printing a photo of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, holding up a physical pair of scissors. It was a nice way to spend 30 minutes and forget about all the sh*t going on.
Well, I was right. As life becomes increasingly uneventful, there really isn’t much to muse about it. It took me basically all week to scrape together the following, and it isn’t much.
At this point, my life is really only structured around running and the occasional conference call I have to be on. I know that running is something that I already do on a routine basis, but since there’s so little to talk about right now, I’ve become increasingly irritated when someone in the family asks me, “Did you run today?”
I realized the other night that when I originally created this blog five years ago, the whole intention of the “ponderings” page was precisely what I’ve just now been doing — that is, small blurbs / ideas / thoughts that come to me throughout the day. I suppose that’s what Twitter is for, though I’ve never been very good at that. But somewhere along the line, I decided that no, these posts couldn’t be so short and simplistic; they had to have a cohesive topic.
As is usually the case when I post things, I thought of some other highly entertaining things to talk about right after I clicked “publish” yesterday. Let me grace you with those things.
The first, is that in addition to blabbing on about running marathons, I meant to talk about how my supervisor Skyped me the other day, asked me how I was doing, if I was running. After I answered her questions, she just went, “Some guy ran a marathon yesterday on his 23-foot deck!” I responded, naturally, “WHY?” And she just went, “It took him over six hours!” Well, I’ll be.
Back to back days, who knew I had it in me?
I realized last night that I had missed out on a couple talking points worth noting. The first: this article. To summarize, the author basically says how walking her dog is the only thing keeping her sane, because it’s the only activity that hasn’t lost its normalcy. You still see your fellow dog walkers; you’re already usually 6 feet apart from people anyway; your dog still needs exercise and to pee/poop. Why would anything change about that? And after reading it, I can wholeheartedly agree. With the Olympics postponed yesterday and my job with the Olympic Committee now up in the air, I felt pretty committed to just wallowing. But I took the corgi for a walk and met my friend Hannah and her poodles, Ollie and Tucker, and we had a lovely time laughing and catching up and processing the pandemic together. It lifted my mood enormously, and for that, I am very grateful to have a pooch to stroll with.
As R.E.M. would say, “it’s the end of the world as we know it,” but I don’t feel fine. I am fine; I’m healthy and safe and still employed and I should just be grateful because that’s more than a heck of a lot of people can say. But I’m allowed to be thrown off a bit, just like everyone else.
People keep asking each other what they’ve been up to in order to maintain their sanity and pass the time. I personally have been cold calling people, out of curiosity: how’s your apocalypse going? While I’m mostly doing it to catch up with loved ones, I’m also doing it to really make sure this is happening, that this isn’t all a weird dream or perhaps an acid trip. Unfortunately for me, these calls have been affirming that yes, our reality is quite truly f*cked up. But fortunately for me, I at least can commiserate over the phone with the unlucky individual who decided to actually pick up and talk to me.
I deleted social media off my phone a month ago. I didn’t have much of a reason. Immediately after announcing it, there were some friends who were somewhat shocked — they reached out, commending me for my noble act, claiming I was “stronger” than they were. Honestly, I think it would be unwise to call myself “strong” for deleting the apps, but likewise, it would be arrogant to say that it meant nothing to do so. In reality, I was at home, it was the 31st, and I was eating cereal while watching the Today show — a rare luxury. Hoda must have said something that made the idea pop into my head: do away with all social media applications, but not my accounts. Just take a break from it, no deadlines. And with that, I kept munching on brown sugar Oatmeal Squares.
It’s strange how birthdays change meaning over time. Growing up, your birthday is the best day of the year — presents, cake, everyone’s attention on you. You have a party with all of your friends. You feel special and important.
But isn’t that all true when you’re grown, too? The fanfare is all the same, and yet we feel bad about our birthdays. They fill us with dread. Another year older just means we’re getting further away from our youth and closer to the tough, painful years of elderliness. And I suppose this is true, but why do we turn so pessimistic about our birthdays when we used to be so optimistic?
For several years, my dad rented an office space owned by a man he somewhat affectionately called “Hack Boy.” Hack Boy owned this dated barber shop just a street over from Main in our little town. The barber shop itself was small, only holding a few chairs for haircutting, but the building was a bit bigger, housing two small, rentable office spaces and an upstairs apartment. Those lucky enough to visit the office spaces got to pass through Hack Boy’s hair studio, featuring ghastly taxidermied animals and that classic old person smell. The furniture was all from the eighties, unquestionably.
You always feel bad for adult beginner skiers. Having grown old enough to develop a sense of fear, they look truly terrified and pained as they make their pizzas down the mountain. Injury could strike with just the slightest turn of the heel, the smallest chunk of ice. Building confidence is quite the endeavor.
You never feel bad for adult beginner roller skaters, however. Because there are so goddamn many of us. You know who we are. We’re those people who never (or rarely) went to the roller or ice rink as children, and now as adults, we are forced to learn balance and grace for one night every five years. Luckily, unlike skiing, roller skating is such a niche sport; no one expects you to be spectacular at it. If you can make it around the rink without falling, you’re golden.
I’ve always been drawn to the sound of a piano. That’s not to say that I can play the piano, however. After watching my siblings both gnash their teeth, throw themselves from the piano bench, and burst into tears countless times, I decided piano lessons weren’t for me. Instead, years later, I’d sit at my father’s piano and study my siblings’ instructions books, essentially self-teaching. When I’d encounter a note or symbol I couldn’t decipher, I’d call over my father, an accomplished pianist from childhood, to clarify. And so, I learned some basic piano, though I never really mastered the building blocks, the scales and keys.
The following is going to be a rambling stream of consciousness, and I accepted that before even beginning to write. So here goes.
A couple days ago, I was heading to the dentist. For the first time ever, I was actually looking forward to it — a chance to leave work, get out of the office, feel the air outside. My optimism about the visit quickly dissipated once I arrived. As I started filling out forms that I had sworn I had filled out online days prior, I gritted my teeth (a bad response in this context) and prepared myself for the inevitable.
Social life really changes once you graduate from college. One moment, you’re surrounded by people all your own age who share the same interests and a common experience. The next, you’re in a workplace surrounded by people who are decades older than you in a town you don’t know. You lose the ease and accessibility of familiar people — just like that.
I recognize that this is not the situation for all college graduates. Certainly I’m not facing such a severe case; I work with people probably all age 25 to 40, in a college town (not my own), with a few contacts in the area. I’m not completely alone. But still, when you’re used to being always around others, it can feel lonesome confronting such a great increase in alone time.
A few weeks ago, I went to see one of my favorite bands of teenager-dom for the fifth time. Yes, the fifth time. No, they didn’t have a new album. No, they weren’t playing with any other acts that I knew. I just wanted to see them again, because after seeing a band repeatedly, I kind of decide that I personally know them.
The funny thing is, I hadn’t actually ever met this band before — usually after seeing a band again and again, I will stay after the show at least once to talk to them. So this time, I was determined. So determined, in fact, that I bought a ticket to the show plus a VIP pass to partake in a Q&A and get my picture with them. Two months in advance.
I struggle a lot with ambiguity;. I hate leaving events and tasks up in the air, with no precise date and time for their completion. But the sad truth is: ambiguity is unavoidable. It’s one of those things we’re expected to just accept, though it pains us.
I’ve spent much of this semester loathing the ambiguity surrounding me, desperate to have some certainty about where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing after graduation. I’m now 9 days away from graduation and still don’t have this certainty.
I’ve always found fear fascinating in the way it does not transfer from person to person. While I am terrified of spiders, snakes, and sharks, my friend could have no qualms about them, instead fearing clowns, tight spaces, and drowning. An object, a creature, a situation all have the potential to scare us. Some of these triggers are so strong, they can even paralyze us.
I often try to live by Eleanor Roosevelt’s motto, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Most frequently, I apply this motto to my rock climbing. Though I’ve been climbing for 13 years, I undoubtedly get scared climbing from time to time. Humans are innately afraid of heights, and I don’t think it strange that I find my heart racing when my arms are fatiguing, the wind is blowing, and I’m struggling to clip a bolt at 50 feet up. Much of climbing — arguably 50% of it — is learning to dispel the fears and negative thoughts that will hinder you while on the wall. Forcing yourself to breathe, acknowledging the places that falling would either be dangerous or fatal, weighing the potential gain and loss of continuing, and then making your decision. Without a strong head game, you simply cannot progress in climbing.
My best friend and I both got rejected from some pretty stellar jobs this week. It’s objectively sucky. I, for one, have been rejected by myriad jobs in the last three months, so this was nothing new. I did almost cry, but felt like I lacked the energy to do so. Overall, I think the bummer mostly resided not in the job itself, perhaps, but in the certainty of the job. This was a job I knew I could do really, really well. I would have been able to walk right into it without the blink of an eyelash. I would know exactly what I’d be doing for the next two years, starting in August, and I also would have been able to start arranging plans for where I’d live. My life would finally lack the ambiguity that has been torturing me for months.
Two weeks ago, I ran my first marathon ever.
Finishing this marathon was arguably one of my greatest accomplishments. The sense of pride and accomplishment I felt crossing that finish line — and continue to feel — is enormous. In the aftermath, I look back at the months of training: the hours of running and cross-training, braving icy and cold trails alone countless times, the constant self-motivation required, the relief of finishing my long run each week. Yes, I think of it as a rewarding time of self-growth and persistence; but I also think of it, in large part, as a learning experience.
It’s nearly the end of the school year.
Graduation is upon us – Oprah is coming – and it seems very clear to me that these last two months are going to fly by. I’ve spent this last semester out of class, job hunting and networking relentlessly, working and saving money, and training for a marathon. And it’s seemed endless. I have felt hopeless and directionless countless times, second-guessed myself and then second-guessed myself again, broke down reasonably and unreasonably. The bottom line: the future is terrifying, and sorting life out, a mess.